x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Paralympics: UAE athletes promised greater support for Rio games in 2016

UAE officials say the achievements at London will be assessed with the idea of developing programmes further for 2016 Rio.

Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani gave the UAE their first taste of gold at the London Paralympic Games.
Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani gave the UAE their first taste of gold at the London Paralympic Games.

After the biggest medal haul in the nation's history, the head of the UAE National Paralympic Committee has promised even more support for athletes during the run-up to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

"We will double our efforts to help those with the potential to compete at the higher levels," Mohammed Fadhel Al Hameli, the chairman, said a few hours before the closing ceremony yesterday.

"We will work on our objectives when we assess our performances in London and then work for the betterment by providing those with medal prospects with advanced and scientific training under professional trainers."

Al Hameli said the committee was pleased with team's performance in London.

"It was a fantastic achievement to win three medals and it can only get better from now," he said. "We [the UAE] had the biggest participation of 15 athletes and although not everyone reached the medal rounds we saw some good performances. For us, to provide them opportunity was absolutely marvellous."

The UAE sent 26 athletes, including the football team, to the Summer Games in London but failed to win a medal.

"We don't want to compare the two because they are poles apart," the chairman said. "It is too early to say of our future plans but we need to invest more towards the development of our disabled athletes, which we will discuss and make our recommendations with the higher authorities.

"We need proper planning to create the budgets and the cooperation of all clubs and associations in different emirates to work under one central committee. We will allocate the funds to employ trainers for the national team and not rely on club coaches.

"But for now, we are all eager to get back home. These athletes have been away for more than a month and they are all very excited to be with their families." A red-carpet welcome awaits the UAE team when they arrive Tuesday around 6.30am at the Dubai International Airport.

The UAE finished 46th from the 75 countries that managed to get through to the medal rounds at the London Games.

China had a medal haul of 231 to top the London Games tally, but the UAE's gold, silver and bronze, won by two athletes, represents a significant achievement for a country competing in the quadrennial event for only the fourth time.

Abdullah Sultan Al Aryani won a shooting gold, and Mohammed Hammadi bagged silver and bronze in the wheelchair T34 200m and 100m sprints for the country's best achievement in a Paralympics.

Mohammed Khamis Khalaf, the most successful Emirati Paralympian, failed to reach the medal round in the 90kg weightlifting in London. He was the winner of a gold at the 2004 Athens Games and silver at 2008 Beijing.

Khalaf, 43, suffered a shoulder injury during the warm-up and was forced out of the competition.

He felt he missed out on a medal in London but has not lost hopes of taking part in top-flight competitions.

"The UAE winning three medals is good advertisement for those aspiring Emirati youngsters with disabilities to get into sports," Khalaf said. "There is a lot of support for them in every emirate, and I am sure the London Games would have created a lot of awareness. London was my fourth Paralympics and it is getting better every time.

"Anyone who makes it to the Paralympics will enjoy the same atmosphere of an Olympic Games. You only have to watch some of the disabled athletes, despite being severely handicapped ... Their performances are incredible.

"They compete in the true spirit."

apassela@thenational.ae

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